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Sotheby Mews Campaigners: We’ve lost Highbury day centre friends

‘This will lead to greater isolation’ warning amid fresh calls for closure plans to be scrapped

24 May, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Campaigners Jackie Noone, Irma Gomez and Norman Elvin

PENSIONERS have re­newed calls to keep their popular day centre open two years after they launched their campaign.

Users of Sotheby Mews Day Centre, in Highbury, have been locked in a battle with the Town Hall, which wants them to move to a newly-built centre more than a mile away.

The council says that the Sotheby Mews site should be developed to provide much-needed social housing while centre users argue that a new space should be built for them on the ground floor of any new development.

Jackie Noone, coordinator for the Save Sotheby Mews campaign, told the Tribune this week that she had surveyed 50 people at the centre on whether they would be able to access their new centre at Highbury Round­house, in Ronalds Road.

“The majority of people – at 62.25 per cent – told us they would find it difficult to get to the new centre, which means they won’t be going there any more. This will lead to greater isolation,” she said.

Earlier Town Centre protest

The redevelopment at Highbury Roundhouse, which currently houses a youth centre, was due to be completed last summer but was delayed following a funding shortfall.

It is not known when the new centre for elderly users is scheduled to be completed. Sotheby Mews continues to be open until then.

Ms Noone, who started attending the centre after suffering a severe concussion, found its chair-based exercise classes “invaluable” in her recovery.

“Growing up around here I’ve known about Sotheby Mews my whole life. It would be horrible if it’s not here for future generations. It’s very peaceful and beautiful here,” she said.

Save Sotheby Mews campaigner Irma Gomez said she “really hoped” that the council would reconsider its plans.

“There are already elderly people no longer going to Sotheby Mews,” she said. “They feel depressed about their future and the loss of the centre. We’ve lost friendships.

“We are not against new housing, but why can’t we come back once the houses are built?”

A Town Hall spokeswoman said: “We recognise the importance of day centre services for older people as places for maintaining vital social connections, as well as offering activities with health and wellbeing benefits.

“Highbury Roundhouse will be a wonderful new facility for older residents and the community generally. Sotheby Mews service users are playing a central part in helping to shape their services at the new community centre.”

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